We May Soon Lose Amazon Rainforest ‘Alarmingly Quickly’

The Amazon rainforest is now moving closer to the tipping point where it will collapse and disappear quickly. A new study found that increasing deforestation, drought and forest fires are pushing large ecosystems into a savannah-type land that only supports trees and grass.

The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, looked at real-world data to see the risk of different ecosystems transforming into an alternative ecosystem around the world.  Researchers said changes have been happening faster than previously expected due to natural and man-made catastrophes, like the wildfire in the Amazon and Australia. 

"Unfortunately, what our paper reveals is that humanity needs to prepare for changes far sooner than expected," Simon Willcock, study lead author at Bangor University's School of Natural Sciences, said in a statement. "These rapid changes to the world's largest and most iconic ecosystems would impact the benefits which they provide us with, including everything from food and materials, to the oxygen and water we need for life."

Scientists previously thought that large forests would collapse more slowly than small ones because changes would take longer to occur across large distances. But with the latest findings, it appeared that big ecosystems are changing much faster, with the process potentially taking only “a few decades,” according to John Dearing, a professor at Southampton University.

How To Save World’s Ecosystems

Governments and organizations have been increasing efforts to help communities in affected areas prevent wildfires and deforestations. Campaigns have also been launched to manage the effects of drought.

The researchers said the wildlife should also receive more attention as part of efforts to protect ecosystems, especially the Amazon. The study states that natural systems that are home to various interacting species are more likely to be more stable. 

Animals could help slow down the shift to alternative ecosystem. For example, elephants are known for helping improve the landscape by pushing over trees and spreading seeds over large distances.

Losing such species could further speed up the process of which large forests reach the “point of no return.” The study predicts that the Amazon may turn into a savannah-type ecosystem within 50 years with the current amount of trees and lands lost. 

"This is yet another strong argument to avoid degrading our planet's ecosystems," Gregory Cooper, of School of Oriental & African Studies at University of London, said. "We need to do more to conserve biodiversity."

Amazon rainforest Researchers warned that tree loss due to extreme heat, drought and deforestation may soon cut the Amazon rainforest’s ability to absorb large amounts of carbon. Pixabay